The brutal dirty tricks campaign against Kate Forbes is beginning to backfire


What is being described by her allies as a dirty tricks campaign against Kate Forbes’ fundamentalist Christian values is beginning to become unstuck. 

Her supporters say that the joint front-runner in the campaign to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland is unrepentant after being subjected to a bitter campaign that has attempted to pour scorn on her beliefs.

But it is beginning to rebound on her critics, following a dramatic intervention from the Catholic Church in Scotland – not normally a religious partner of the fundamentalist Free Church of Scotland, of which the finance minister has been a long-time member.

And her backers claim that SNP members are also beginning to object to the scale of the criticism.

Some of it has been pretty brutal, especially that which can be traced back to the party leadership, with Nicola Sturgeon saying that the values of First Ministers “matter” and insisting that Scotland was a “socially progressive country”. Gettit – nudge, nudge: don’t vote for Forbes.

However, most complaints from the Forbes camp concern a more straightforward assault on her opposition to gay marriage from John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, who urged party members to consider whether it was “appropriate” for Forbes to lead Scotland. Gettit – nudge, nudge: don’t vote for Forbes.

It was these and other attacks that prompted the Catholic Church to warn that the attacks on the 32-year-old would make people of faith reluctant to enter politics and had helped foster a culture of intolerance towards people’s “religious orientations”.

The Church’s condemnation of the attacks on Forbes followed the country’s most prominent historian, Sir Tom Devine, saying that Forbes should be praised for her “steadfast personal commitment” to her principles.

Meanwhile, jokes may not have been Ms Sturgeon’s stock in trade during her long service in public life but her view on Thursday that Humza Yousaf was the leadership hopeful every Unionist was scared of, wasn’t just funny; it was positively hilarious.

She insisted that Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, keeps attacking Yousaf –  widely seen as Sturgeon’s choice as her replacement – because he’s terrified of the health minister becoming First Minister.

Surely she knows that if Yousaf’s picture isn’t pinned up in every Conservative committee room – as well as every Labour and Lib Dem equivalent – then it soon will be. They all hope he wins the SNP leadership election, which begins in earnest on Friday, because they’ve worked out that with him in charge of the campaign for Scottish independence, the Union is safe forever.

Sturgeon and most of her ministerial colleagues are backing Yousaf to be the new First Minister and as Ross says: “It looks like he’s going to fail upwards.”

They all had to sit through an especially brutal question session at Holyrood on Thursday when Ross reminded anyone who’s interested what Yousaf has been like as a minister. We have to bear in mind that it’s only SNP members – they claim 100,000 – that can vote in this Nat race but whether they take note of Ross’s recall of the Humza years remains to be seen.

He cited the minister’s record at transport, where he drove without a licence and delayed key road improvements, at justice where he did nothing to halt violent crime and added that he was now the “worst health minister” since devolution.

In the latter category, he accused Yousaf of presiding over cases in different parts of the country, where patients had waited, respectively, 49 hours, 54 hours and 60 hours in accident and emergency departments.

The contest proper begins on Friday when nominations for the leadership close. Backers of the finance minister insist she was prepared for criticism of her religious beliefs and she is confident of winning over party members when the series of hustings begin.

In conclusion, I’m confident that whoever wins is doomed to another defeat in any bid to break up Britain.